Follow the Money—Sports

Why Guys Are Getting Paid Big

How the Other Half Lives

I’ve been focusing 99 percent of my energy on how prices have gone up for free agents and rookies alike, but what about the other guys?

You know who I’m talking about: the guys who aren’t fortunate enough to have the pay checks, talent or maybe even the agents to pull off some of the largest, most incredible contracts in sports.

Today, I’m celebrating the guys making the league minimum, or close to it. You may find some names you recognize.

Exhibit A–Chris Douglas-Roberts–New Jersey Nets. He’s only a rookie this year, so his contract wasn’t going to huge anyway, per NBA rules. But still, he’s a fairly prominent name in the world of basketball over the last year because of his stellar work at Memphis. This season, the swingman is making $442,114. We salute you, Chris.

wizards3_resizeExhibit B–Juan Dixon–Washington Wizards. I love to talk about journeyman players. My buddies and I like to drop the names of players who haven’t made a big impact on the sport and joke about them. While I greatly respect Juan Dixon for his work at Maryland in college, he’s amounted to being a true journeyman in the NBA. Appropriately, he’s making $998,398 this season.

ExhibCardinals Rockies Baseballit C–Ryan Ludwick–St. Louis Cardinals. This guy had a productive season last year, making the NL All-Star team. But here’s the deal: Ludwick has bounced around in his career, and had the best season of his life at age 30. He hasn’t just bounced around MLB teams either. He’s been in and out of the minor leagues for most of his career. Last season, he made $411,000.

Exhibit D–Josh Hamilton–Texas Rangers. I saw this guy’s name next to his salary and did an instant double-take. Hamilton was the feel-good story of the year in baseball, and put up numbers that could very well earn him AL MVP this week. Really, he’s been very productive his last two seasons. In 2008, he’s making a grand total of $396,830. Wow.

ruudhandsmallapsmallExhibit E–Barrett Ruud–Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ruud wasn’t much of a household name until the current season, where he’s put together a heck of a year, anchoring one of the NFL’s best defenses from the linebacker position. This season, Ruud’s making a miniscule (by pro sports standards) $523,840. Compare that to a player such as recently-benched Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, who recently got a $7 million signing bonus in the offseason. That’s a signing bonus, not based on any 2008 games. People who aren’t even playing are making more money up front than Ruud will make for an entire 2008 season of toil.

Oy, how the other half lives.

November 18, 2008 Posted by | League Minimum Guys | Leave a comment

Your Weekly $ Pioneer

a-rod-announcement-new-york-yankees-star-alex-rodriguez-ends-his-contractIt was only a matter of time before this guy slugged his way into this category.

Even though he’s only 31 and still at the top of his game, Yankees third baseman Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez is a sports money pioneer. The reason? His 2001 free agent contract with the Texas Rangers that paid him $252 million. A quarter of a million dollars for an (at the time) shortstop with a sweet swing. It doesn’t sound so bad in today’s sports contract climate, except for a few reasons.

1.) It was the Texas freakin’ Rangers. This was a team who, at the time, had zero pitching, zero pieces to put around Rodriguez in the everyday lineup, and some pretty poor structure at the top. Basically, this insane contract was offered to appease the fans who had to be growing tired of watching their team lose for years.

2.) A-Rod only stayed for a few seasons. Sure, he won a couple AL MVP awards, but the Rangers lost a ton of games and committed themselves to paying one player more than most entire rosters. Oh, the things the Florida Marlins could do with a $252 million payroll.

3.) The contract set a dangerous precedent for position players seeking new deals after 2001. $252 million was a big reach for any player at the time, but look how high MLB contracts have risen since that offseason. Now, you have starting pitchers who only play one day a week making $137 million. You’ve got centerfielders (Carlos Beltran) pulling in over $100 million based off of one great season. Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera cashed in just before the start of this past season for $150 million, and he hadn’t played a single regular season game yet. Basically, the A-Rod contract in 2001 changed the landscape of what players could realistically ask for, or at least sped up the trend.

That’s why Alex Rodriguez is this week’s $ Pioneer.

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Weekly $ Pioneers | Leave a comment